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Ulman tours Dasher Green Head Start, emphasizes importance of expanded preK

Howard County Council Chair Courtney Watson and County Executive Ken Ulman toured the Dasher Green Head Start Center Friday.
Howard County Council Chair Courtney Watson and County Executive Ken Ulman toured the Dasher Green Head Start Center Friday. (By Blair Ames, Baltimore Sun Media Group)
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman joined local officials Friday to tour the Dasher Green Head Start Center in Columbia touting the importance of prekindergarten classes and the need to make them full-day programs.

"There's no better way to improve the achievement gap and make sure that every child has an opportunity at a world-class education than getting them started in prekindergarten," Ulman said. "Every study shows that when you enter kindergarten ready to learn, you have a tremendous chance of succeeding all the way through 12th grade and beyond."

Ulman, the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, was joined by Howard County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, Del. Guy Guzzone and Community Action Council President Bita Dayhoff to tour Dasher Green, which, with the help of state funding, was able to expand three of its preK programs from a half- to a full-day. Watson is the Democratic candidate for county executive, and Guzzone, also a Democrat, is running for a state Senate seat.

In July, the Community Action Council received $212,800 through the PreKindergarten Expansion Act of 2014, a statewide initiative to expand access to prekindergarten to children from low-income families. In addition to the Dasher Green preK expansion, one preK class at Old Cedar Lane was also expanded from a half- to full-day program with this funding.

The goal is to eventually make all preK programs full-day programs, according to Alice Harris, Community Action Council director of education.

Tara Jackson, whose son attends a full-day prekindergarten class at Old Cedar Lane, calls Head Start "the greatest thing" for her son.

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"It's helped him with his social skills, he's a lot more sociable now with other people. He used to be the one to hide behind [someone]," she said.

Jackson, who serves as chair of the Head Start Policy Council, added the Howard County Head Start programs are like an extension of family.

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"They work with the families. It's not just the child, but it's [making sure] things are taken care of at home, then the child works better at school," she said.

Howard County has four Head Start centers — Dasher Green, Ellicott City, First Presbyterian and Old Cedar Lane — that have 15 half- and full-day prekindergarten programs serving more than 280 students.

The Dasher Green and Old Cedar Lane Head Start programs recently achieved a Maryland EXCELS check level 5 rating, the highest awarded by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Maryland EXCELS is the state's rating system that awards ratings to child care and public prekindergarten programs that meet higher standards in areas, such as staffing and professional development, administrative policies and practices and developmentally appropriate learning and practice.

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