First 10 Blog

Strategies from Conestoga Valley


Each month, we bring together First 10 partners from across the U.S. to share best practices via First 10 Network Meetings. In October, we heard from the Conestoga Valley team from Lancaster, PA.

Conestoga Valley partnered with First 10 in 2022. They offer a great example of a supportive, dynamic team implementing creative strategies to support First 10 initiatives.  Their presentation featured five different voices— a teacher, a School Board member, a principal, an assistant superintendent, and the public relations lead. Each described how they are working together and using First 10 to build leadership buy-in and drive home the importance of increasing supports to children and families in their community. Network meeting participants valued hearing how each of these roles contributes to the First 10 effort in Conestoga Valley.

After the Conestoga Valley presentation (view slides), network meeting participants had a chance to discuss what, if anything, they learned from the presentation that they could potentially apply to their own communities.

Here are a few of the takeaways…

Transition to kindergarten is a big deal!
Conestoga Valley described the transition to kindergarten as equally important as high school graduation and this resonated with others. After the presentation, there were a lot of comments about the fact that all children in the community are future students and that the Transition to Kindergarten is not just a one-time event – we want to engage with the kids and families early and often. One person noted that at least one First 10 team gears up for their Transition to K in the Spring.

A designated communications role is helpful.
Many participants commented that having a coordinated communications approach with consistent and frequent messaging (in multiple locations) would be great to keep the community informed and involved in available services and opportunities. Several participants brainstormed how to find someone for that role. One idea was to have someone at the district or state level spearheading that kind of coordination for schools. At Conestoga Valley, the public relations lead works at the district level.

Wholeheartedly embracing partnership is key to First 10 work.
One person commented that the presentation was a nice reminder on how many partners become involved in the First 10 teams. This includes alignment and collaboration with members of leadership (getting support from district leaders and Administration) and possible state collaborations focusing on the Transition to K within Head Start, the school, and community.

Meeting participants also remarked on the CV team’s positive team relationship and commitment to the program.

Funding & Sustainability ideas to explore and think about.
Participants appreciated hearing the creative thinking around funding and sustainability. One idea included negotiating with the transportation director on costs to transport prekindergarten students and applying those savings to other preK initiatives and/or salaries. The idea being that if there is already room on the school bus and no additional stops are added, it is not costing the school bus transportation service anything additional to transport new prekindergarten students. One meeting participant also remarked how impressed she was that the Conestoga Valley program leader continues to look for new ways to fund the program. 

Change of staffing and other variables can make sustainability difficult, but it can help when processes are documented so that when changes happen things will continue to flow smoothly.

Make Play and Learns more comfortable for younger siblings.
One idea that came up was to make a special effort to recruit the younger siblings of children enrolled in programs so the younger sibling can participate in a play & learn at the same location as their older sibling.

These were a few of the ideas that came up during the presentation and discussion.  It has been great to see collaboration happening across First 10 communities as they learn from one another’s work.