- Michael D. Clark Staff Writer
For the first time Butler County’s largest school system has won a top state ranking for its preschool programs.
Lakota Local Schools recently earned a 5-star “Step Up To Quality” rating from the Ohio Department of Education.
Ratings are given based on a five-tiered system as a way of recognizing child care programs that meet the state quality standards and exceed minimum health and safety licensing regulations.
Besides Lakota, Butler County’s Talawanda Schools’ preschool programs in the Oxford area also earned a 5-star rating as did Preble Shawnee Schools along the northern border of the county.
In Warren County, Franklin Schools’ programs earned the top rating.
Lynda Theiler, Lakota’s executive director of special services kindergarten through sixth grade, said, “I am thrilled that the hard work and dedication of preschool principal Kelley Johnson and her staff have been recognized by the state. Being named a 5-Star Step Up to Quality program acknowledges the stellar education our youngest students are receiving at Lakota.”
In response to a federal mandate, Lakota in 1990 developed a preschool program to serve children ages 3-5 with a wide range of disabilities qualifying for special education services. A program model was adopted to include children with typical development in order to provide for a more appropriate and enriching learning experience.
Lakota offers the program at Creekside Early Childhood School, Liberty Early Childhood School and Shawnee Early Childhood School to 340 students.
Talawanda’s early learning programs are conducted at Brogan, Kramer and Maude Marshall elementary schools.
The program is designed to serve both students with a range of disabilities as well as typical preschool students who pay a tuition to attend. The model is built on the premise that preschool-aged students with disabilities, as well as those with typical learning styles, can both benefit and grow academically by learning alongside one another, said Lakota officials.
“Lakota’s preschool program is top-notch,” said Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller, whose district enrolls 16,000 students.
“The teachers are devoted to our early learners. They work hard to instill a love of learning and to ensure that our kids are ready to enter kindergarten when the time comes. I am very proud that their efforts have been recognized at the state level,” said Miller.
The Butler County Educational Service Center is a countywide school district offering a variety of services for the enhancement of educational programs including preschool classes.
Sissy Rasmussen, BCESC Early Childhood Special Education Director, said “preschools establish the important foundation building blocks that help students set the path for a successful academic career in their school district and beyond. The top level 5-star rating confirms what we’ve known about our Early Learning teams: they provide a high-quality entrance for our students to school based services.”