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OFE News Release

Putnam City Schools Foundation Recognized for Supporting Early Childhood Education Program

November 2, 2011

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence representatives (from left) Suzanne Thompson, chair of the Local Education Outreach Committee, and President Susie Thurmond present the 2011 Outstanding Program Award for Local Education Foundations to Putnam City Schools Foundation Director Caroline Gist (center); Early Birds Program director Kelly Suchy, and Putnam City Schools Foundation board member Mark McCoy.
Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence representatives (from left) Suzanne Thompson, chair of the Local Education Outreach Committee, and President Susie Thurmond present the 2011 Outstanding Program Award for Local Education Foundations to Putnam City Schools Foundation Director Caroline Gist (center); Early Birds Program director Kelly Suchy, and Putnam City Schools Foundation board member Mark McCoy.

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has honored the Putnam City Schools Foundation as the recipient of its 2011 Outstanding Program Award for Local Education Foundations.

The award, which recognizes innovative programs sponsored or administered by public school foundations in Oklahoma, was presented at the Fall Forum for Local Education Foundations, held recently in Norman. The Putnam City Schools Foundation received a $1,000 cash award for its support of Parent Tool Kits as part of the district’s Early Birds Childhood School Readiness and Parent Education Program. The Early Birds program is a joint venture of Putnam City Public Schools, SmartStart Central Oklahoma and the Inasmuch Foundation. Additional support is provided through the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, Kirkpatrick Family Fund, Kerr Foundation and the Dell Foundation.

The program, which began in 2006, gives parents the tools and training to teach their children early learning skills from prenatal to age 5. The parent tool kits sponsored by the Putnam City Schools Foundation include notebooks of poems, rhymes, finger plays, music CDs, activity books, alphabet shapes, white boards and tracing shapes, puzzles, game boards, puppets and books. Trained instructors show parents how to “play with a purpose” using the materials. Parents attend three classes each year, which are available in both English and Spanish. Parents are encouraged to read to their children and use the learning materials daily to enhance school readiness.

“Early Birds honors parents as their child’s most influential and most loved teacher,” said foundation board member Donna Powell. “It is designed to narrow the achievement gap before kindergarten, since research shows that children who start ahead, stay ahead throughout their school years.”

The program has grown steadily, from serving 525 children in 2006-07 to serving nearly 2,000 children in 2010-11. Student outcomes are measured using a kindergarten readiness assessment and literacy skills assessment. Students whose parents have participated in the Early Birds Program averaged 95 percent on their Kindergarten Benchmark Test in 2011, while the national average score is 60 percent.

Laura Martin, a parent who participated in the program, said her son has benefited greatly from the program. “I love how the activities and materials are hands-on and are developmentally appropriate for the age level,” she said. “My son loves to get down his Early Birds Bag and use all the toys. It is fun to use the materials in such a structured way and see him learn the objectives, while having fun doing so. I have seen growth in so many areas since we have started doing the activities suggested in the program.”

The Outstanding Program Award for Local Education Foundations is sponsored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Program Award winners may include but are not limited to: mentoring, arts integration, student leadership development, curriculum enhancement, student scholarships, professional development for teachers, public relations and fundraising. Nominations for recognition may be made by any member of a community served by the local education foundation or by anyone knowledgeable about the foundation, including its board members.

“We honor programs for the positive impact they have in promoting academic excellence in their communities,” said Karen Rose, director of Local Education Foundation Outreach for the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “In addition, we will recognized this amazing program at our Fall Forum so that other public school foundations in Oklahoma can be inspired by their success and perhaps develop similar programs in their own districts.”