In less than a year and a half in office, County Superintendent of Schools Robert Kelty has put more than a dent into his to-do list.
The superintendent, appointed in August 2010 after the retirement of predecessor Cecilia Owen with more than two years left in her term, has:
-- Introduced special education services for preschoolers age 3-5 in Supai.
-- Scaled and replicated the KinderCamp kindergarten preparation program countywide. It will begin in Williams, Fredonia, Page and Winslow next year.
-- Visited the "Baby College" at Harlem Children's Zone in New York and started planning a parenting curriculum to debut locally by this fall.
-- Secured additional technology and Internet connectivity for the county's more rural schools. Construction of infrastructure begins in the spring.
-- Added a transition school for youth just released from the county jail or juvenile detention center. The day program -- which is part of the "accommodation" school district that provides alternative schooling -- gives them an extra, supportive step before returning to their traditional school or entering the county's alternative schools.
-- Started getting the county's two alternative high schools accredited.
-- Snagged about $1.2 million in grants for teacher professional development, early childhood education and the accommodation district.
More philosophically, he continues to press his idea of community buy-in for the sake of children's success.
He credits his staff and like-minded organizers in other children's advocacy groups for helping him achieve goals that reflect his deep-held personal beliefs, including early childhood education and the education of Native American children.
Kelty combined these two when he investigated the lack of special education services in the village of Supai, home to the Havasupai tribe. The reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is a popular tourist spot, but it's very remote. Its young residents have a K-8 school run by the federal Bureau of Indian Education and a Head Start preschool, but due to its isolation, the area doesn't have any nearby districts that can provide additional services (as he explained, for example, that Flagstaff Unified School District could do for preschoolers in Leupp, where there are both BIE and FUSD schools). And the BIE doesn't require special education services for preschoolers.
That left the youngest Havasupai children with disabilities without accommodations until kindergarten. Kelty researched the legal options and convinced the Arizona Department of Education that it had jurisdiction and could step in. The ADE has sent contract employees in to satisfy what is required according to the preschoolers' individualized education plans.
Between the Supai intervention, KinderCamp and the Baby College, Kelty believes that starting at the beginning is a very good place to start.
"Early childhood is definitely, in my opinion that's where you really make an impact on generational poverty and school readiness," he said. "Don't allow that achievement gap to expand once school starts, get it before it happens."
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 556-2261.