On December 4, 1890, Egenolf Early Childhood Center was born. It started as Elizabeth Day Nursery, then became Egenolf Day Nursery, and finally Egenolf Early Childhood Center. For 128 years, families have been eager to have their children experience its wildly popular and deeply esteemed early learning program.
Historically, families were free to choose whom they wanted to care and educate their children. Sadly, family choice has been restricted since registration is no longer managed by Egenolf ECC during the school year. Fortunately, families do have the freedom to choose Egenolf ECC as the summer camp program for their children. Since children and families are the cornerstone of the program, services are dedicated to all who are fortunate to experience the program.
Today, Egenolf ECC celebrates its long history. The program has enjoyed visits from many states who desire to replicate its nationally recognized high quality preschool. Egenolf ECC has been studied by several countries as a model for their preschools as well. The program has been featured in many books and articles, most recently in the New York Times magazine in January 2018. The past 128 years have gifted the program with the opportunity to celebrate generations of children and their families.
Egenolf ECC will continue to prioritize developmentally appropriate practices that are good and right for children and families. Research will continue to guide the work, and excellence will prevail.
Happy 128th birthday, Egenolf Early Childhood Center!
Working as a community provider with the school district was/is not easy. The philosophical differences are huge. As a community based organization, children and families are meaningful to everything done at and by the center. It becomes clear pretty quickly that providers are exceptional in that regard.
At the beginning, research on high quality preschool was shared with a district leader who said he did not believe in research. He was not moved to hold back on his disdain for community providers; or in his words, babysitters. Having been in the community for over 100 years, doing only preschool, our center mattered little. Once the money showed up, the district became the expert in all things early childhood education. National accreditation was foreign and disregarded. When “school” entered the title, as in “preschool”, well, the district became the powerhouse. Since funding traveled from the state to the district to the provider, unfortunately, often the provider did not receive its full funding, at the discretion of the district. That’s called Home Rule.
Families consistently opt for the community provider as the setting for their preschool since our focus is exclusively young children and we are exceptionally family friendly. District central registration annihilates family choice. Priority is given to filling district classrooms. Providers remain secondary, despite the regulation directive that districts must not supplant community providers. Just this year, our high quality, nationally accredited program was selected to lose a high quality classroom in order to keep district classrooms full, even those in trailers.
The purpose of this blog is to illustrate what the contractual relationship between a high quality community based preschool/early education program and a school district looks like in the delivery of state funded preschool. Our story will start with some basics, then tell the details of our journey.
Egenolf Early Childhood Center began as Elizabeth Day Nursery on December 4, 1890 serving a wide range of ages of children, providing 24 hour care. The popularity of the service blossomed to the extent that it outgrew its location on Spring Street and moved into the house donated by Lena and Peter Egenolf on Elizabeth Avenue. The name was changed to the Egenolf Day Nursery in honor of the family. In 1900, the Nursery became incorporated and secured a reputation for outstanding service for early care and education. In 1973, the program relocated to the former National Cash Register building on Newark Avenue, where it resides today. The name was once again changed to better reflect its work: Egenolf Early Childhood Center.
Recognizing its long term commitment to excellence, the center began its work toward earning national accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the gold standard for high quality early education. In 1994, the program was awarded the distinction of NAEYC Accreditation; an honor it still holds today.
In 1998, the landmark Abbott v. Burke court case changed the landscape of preschool in NJ. Thirty districts, including Elizabeth, were designated a “high needs” districts indicating that it must provide free, state funded preschool to resident families with children ages three and four, who wanted their children to participate. One of the requirements of the district was to reach out to community programs, like the one at Egenolf ECC, to invite them to become contractors. Given the long history, and substantiated quality of Egenolf ECC, it was obvious it would join in the delivery of state funded preschool.
The ride was just about to begin…….