Collaborative seeking to present data to community

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Stafford - posted Fri., Sep. 30, 2011
Ann Puglisi coordinates the SEEC project, an initiative to assess and implement a community plan for children ages birth to 8. Photo by Lauri Voter.
Ann Puglisi coordinates the SEEC project, an initiative to assess and implement a community plan for children ages birth to 8. Photo by Lauri Voter.

For nearly two years, Ann Puglisi has coordinated functions for the Stafford Early Education Council, whose goal is to evaluate and implement a community-wide strategy to improve conditions for children age birth to 8. The Stafford Early Education Council “is a group that has grown from being the school readiness council to encompassing a lot more,” said Puglisi, who said the council is considering changing its name to better reflect its role.

Until then, it is known as SEEC, and it is a collaborative comprised of town officials, parents, a Head Start advocate, principals, the superintendent of schools, a family physician, a librarian and “anyone that cares about kids and lives in town,” said Puglisi.

The current organization evolved from the school readiness council that began more than 10 years ago, which in turn merged with the Discovery program to create a single childhood collaborative - SEEC. The Discovery funding for the collaborative comes from the William Kasper Graustein Memorial Fund (www.wcgmf.org), a private family foundation out of Hamden, “which is giving grants to communities that qualify for school readiness… to do a community plan around children ages birth to 8,” said Puglisi. Stafford is able to apply for the grant because it meets the low-income, qualifying parameters.

The Discovery grant provides a stipend for the coordinator’s position. “I’m the staff to the committee,” said Puglisi, who supports the group, but is not a member of it.

The grant also funds costs associated with coordinating focus groups, pays for administrative tasks, and covers meeting and event expenses. The grant is also used to pay consulting fees to the council’s process facilitator, Cindy Guerreri, of Essential Outcomes, LLC, based in Tolland.

The collaborative has received two annual grants to fund the planning process, during which SEEC has been conducting focus groups and interviews in order to collect data, which it will analyze and use a basis for developing and implementing its community plan.

The Discovery funding requires the recipient to utilize results-based accountability (RBA) standards, meaning that the organization has a time frame – two years – in which to complete the planning process. RBA helps deter recipients from remaining in a perpetual state of planning, and keeps the collaborative moving in a forward direction.

Upon completion of the two-year planning portion, the council can then apply for an implementation grant. Meanwhile, SEEC’s goal is to analyze, document and present its findings to the community.

To date, some of SEEC's findings are: “The rate of mothers who report smoking during pregnancy in Stafford is three times the state average; one-third of third-graders do not read at or above the goal level in Stafford per the 2010-2011 CMT scores; during the 2010-2011 school year, 36 percent of students at West Stafford and Staffordville schools had a BMI in the 85th percentile or above, meaning they are overweight or obese.”

With the goal of improving community-wide conditions for young children, interviews and focus groups conducted by SEEC solicited input from parents of children, Head Start parents, playgroup parents, psychologists and social workers, members of community organizations, the head of the recreation department, the head of a local childcare center, family care directors, members of the PTO, teachers and the Board of Education.

“We went to their meetings, and we used the same set of questions... All the notes came to me,” said Puglisi, who compiled the notes into a summary of results. “Overwhelmingly, the respondents felt that parents were the most important force around making sure children are safe, secure, healthy.”

The community plan is not meant to be exclusive to low-income families. Its intent is to address issues, needs and interests that affect all of Stafford’s young children, regardless of socio-economic standing.

“The focus groups are really just to get an idea… It’s not a scientific study - it’s input,” said Puglisi, who said that conducting a community survey might be one of SEEC’s next steps. “We have more or less chosen what areas we think need to be improved for those children, and subcommittees are working on writing their stories behind the data and looking for strategies to turn the curve,” explained Puglisi.

Currently, the collaborative is determining how best to communicate its findings to the community. SEEC has begun the process by starting a Facebook page. Input from the community, organizations interested in offering a venue to help SEEC present its data, and persons or organizations who want to help SEEC implement its strategies can contact Discovery Coordinator Ann Puglisi at 860-851-9062.

Send comments and story ideas to Lauri Voter at lvoter@remindernet.com.


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