APPLE SPOTLIGHT - Riverside Youth Enrichment Center
The City of Palm Beach Gardens started a daycare center 10 years ago for its employees and residents. Since that time, Riverside Youth Enrichment Center has grown to so much more. Most recently, they received APPLE Accreditation. Riverside is only the second 'municipal' school to receive APPLE Accreditation. Opened in 2004, Riverside serves about 130 children between 1 and 5th grade. The center is owned and operated by the city, has 30 full-and-part-time employees with an annual budget of about $800,000. About 40% of the children attending have parents who are city employees and they receive a 30-percent discount.
To celebrate this wonderful achievement, the center celebrated with APPLE Day. FACCM was honored to attend this special ceremony and celebratory day. The students and teachers all dressed in red. Parents, guests, and dignitaries such as the Mayor of the City, Police Chief, and Fire Chief were all invited. They received a shiny red apple at the front door. Throughout the school, little red apples hung proudly on the walls with the names of all the students and teachers. The school celebrated with a special puppet performance and school assembly. During the assembly the town manager and Mayor thanked the teachers and the Director, Christy Murphy, for a job well done and gave a little gift as a memento. The Director, Christy Murphy, along with her dedicated team are the key to the school's success. We interviewed Christy to gain a little more insight into the school's success and her experience in becoming APPLE Accredited.
Christy, tell us a little about yourself, your passion for early learning, and the highlights of your day at Riverside? We'd also love to hear about your wonderful teaching team. (FACCM)
That is so wonderful to hear! I love to hear about the passion you still have for educating our youngest children. Tell me a little about the journey to become accredited. When did the process start? How did you get your team to assist you in this achievement? What was the hardest part during the accreditation process?
Our journey began March of 2013. WE all sat down as a TEAM and began to look over all the necessary requirements and procedures. It became obvious that each staff member would play a vital role in different sections. One of our VPK teacher’s, Patrice Severson, was excited to take on this challenge and assist me in accomplishing this accreditation for the next 18 months. We began reformulating our policies and procedures to meet APPLE Accreditation standards. This journey began at the same time we were researching curriculums. We decided that if possible we could use our current curriculum; however we would need to make adjustments to include everything Apple was looking for. As we went through the process we realized that so many things we were already doing met Apple standards. We just needed to make a few adjustments and put them all in writing. Going through the sections step-by-step made us really sit back and take a hard look at evaluating our school, how far we have come and where we are going.
We put together a more comprehensive strategic plan to let us inform our management staff and parents as to where we want to be in the future. We completely redesigned and updated our staff handbook as well as enhanced our orientation process. Going through this process made us realize that we need to become stronger advocates of early literacy. We began adding to our monthly email blast and newsletter snippets of information to the parents on early literacy and different creative ways to read to their children. I am so proud of the TEAM for what they accomplished during this journey and incredible ride we went on together. It really was not that hard. I met with the teachers and mentioned to them that I would like us to become Apple Accredited. Since we have such an outstanding preschool already, I thought we were very capable of making this happen. They also knew how much I value their expertise and allow them to be a part of any decisions and changes that would need to be done during this accreditation process. I explained to them, this would give us an opportunity to validate what we do. We are not a babysitting service; instead we educate and nourish our children on a day to day basis. One of the hardest parts of the accreditation process for all of us was letting go of no staples and glitter throughout the preschool. It took some adjusting and lots of double-sided tape, but we were able to pull through.
What a wonderful and enriching experience for you and your team. I love how you involved them so much. We hear that a lot about the glitter/staples--but as you now know, it is the best and most safe practice for the school and children. Christy, will you share some more interesting tidbits about your unique school and the children you educate. (FACCM)
Our preschool is owned and operated by the City of Palm Beach Gardens. We have a large facility of approximately 15,000 square feet with nine classrooms, five separate playgrounds and two garden areas. The main thing that I feel that sets our preschool apart from other preschools is our staff. Our staff including the maintenance staff creates such a welcoming and nurturing environment. The children welcome our lead maintenance employee, Mr. Jeff, each morning. Having the maintenance staff on-site allows us to have a very clean and sanitized facility. The City of Palm Beach Gardens strives to set itself apart from other preschools by keeping our preschool closely involved with the city by offering different opportunities to children who attend our school. One of the programs we offer is free swim lessons to our pre-k children to help them learn how to swim. Our Police and Fire department visit the preschool annually to teach the children about stranger danger and fire safety. Our preschool has grown so much over the years that our VPK graduation is now hosted by the Palm Beach State College Eissey Campus Theatre. Our after-school children are actively involved with a local senior retirement home and visit them throughout the school year for different events.
On behalf of the FACCM and APPLE team, we want to wish a heartfelt congratulations to you, your entire teaching team, Mr. Jeff, the Mayor and City of Palm Beach Gardens, and of course to the families you serve. We are incredibly happy and proud of your achievement and wish you the very best.