8/26/11 Letter to Members from Executive Director Joel Ryan

August 26, 2011

Dear WSA Members:

I hope you are enjoying your summer. This summer was fun for me as I watched my four year old daughter learn how to swim and how to splash her dad in the face repeatedly. Our board of directors met this week and approved a new budget, strategic plan, and by-law changes. I wanted to share with you some of what we came up with, including some new initiatives and events:

New Complex Trauma Institute

This institute is tentatively scheduled to take place in January and would focus on the latest research and best practices around the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey (ACES), strategies to work with children with challenging behaviors, and the compassionate schools curriculum. We have heard from a number of our members that they wanted to see a more in-depth training program just on challenging behaviors.


Spring Institute

This year we are combining the two successful Management and Leadership and Spring Institutes into one super Spring Institute. This institute will provide high quality training to family service workers, health and disability coordinators, program managers, education coordinators, and parent involvement staff. We had a great turnout for last year’s events. This year the conference is April 11-13 in Bellevue. Be on the lookout for more information very soon!


Training Registry

Have you ever tried to find a really good trainer for an event at your local program? It’s not easy to locate the best people. WSA is going to try to make your life a bit simpler by putting together a training registry for both trainers and programs. With this new registry, trainers will be able to enter their information into a database and member programs will then be able to search for trainers that meet a certain interest, area, or need. This interactive feature on our web site will be under construction for the next few months.


Web Site Overhaul

WSA will also be undergoing another website overhaul. We had an outside firm look at our web site and make recommendations and they provided us with a long list of ways to make it easier for our members to find the latest information and for the web site to be more appealing.  The firm provided us with over 6 pages of comments and thoughts so it is a bit overwhelming but we intend to turn to this project very shortly.


Conference Scholarship Fund

Every year we get a call from a number of programs that want to attend our conferences and trainings but do not have the resources to join us. Mostly, they are smaller Head Start and ECEAP and tribal programs. This new scholarship fund would provide a cost discount for some selected attendees. We hope this will provide opportunities for more programs to participate with us. The Quality and Training Committee of our association will be getting together soon to discuss how the scholarship process will work. 


Region X Head Start Association

Our board met this week and decided to pull out of the Region X Head Start Association after carefully weighing the benefits and drawbacks of continuing our participation. We ultimately concluded that the $14,000 we pay in dues and travel for participation in the Region X Head Start Association could be put to better use. Our board decided to instead reallocate these funds in three specific ways:


  • Creation of a New Washington State Awards Program. Our state would develop and publicize its own awards program open to all Head Start and ECEAP programs, staff, and parents. Winners would receive cash awards and other benefits and we would publicize our winners widely. A committee of our board is tasked with deciding how this new awards program will be designed.


  • Additional funds to support NHSA Participation. In order to ensure we are properly represented at the national level our board decided to double the amount of funding we have available for our board members to travel to NHSA’s Leadership Institute where key decisions are made and where we can meet with our congressional delegation.


  • Parent Ambassadors Program. The fourth year of the Parent Ambassadors Program begins January 2012. We will begin our recruitment at the October Fall Meeting in Chelan. As you are well aware, the Parent Ambassadors Program has been incredibly successful advocating for ECEAP, child care, and Head Start funding at both the state and federal levels. Our work has gained wide-spread notoriety as we recently presented at the World Forum on Early Education and Care and were guests at the White House back in the spring.  Several other states have also started their own Parent Ambassadors Program modeled after Washington. These funds would help us expand our advocacy work, and strengthen our training for participants.   

Federal and State Advocacy

We hope to strengthen our advocacy in several important ways this year:


  • Increasing our communications capacity. We are going to enter into a small contract with a DC based PR consulting firm called Spitfire Strategies. Spitfire has been providing us with some pro-bono work and we really like their work and understanding of early learning issues. They will help us strategize about how to protect Head Start and help us fend off attempts to cut ECEAP and child care. Some of their current clients include the Kellogg Foundation, AARP, American Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control, Anne E. Casey Foundation, Stand for Children, ONE Campaign, and League of Women Voters. You can check them out at http://www.spitfirestrategies.com


  • Recruiting more alumni and community champions. You probably received a request from us asking you whether you can identify a Head Start or ECEAP alumni.  Short survey is here. We would love to include more alumni this year in our advocacy work. We are also looking for some great community champions including business leaders, school teachers, and friends of Head Start and ECEAP.


  • More site visits. Several programs have either hosted a site visit with their member of Congress or state lawmakers. We really want to get these folks into our programs so they can see the great work we are doing. If you need some assistance from us we would be happy to assist you in setting up a visit or if you would like some help publicizing the visit.


  • Being at the right tables. Our team has been very active at various coalitions and working groups. We sit on the steering committee of the Early Learning Action Alliance—a coalition of more than 40 early learning organizations and we are active in the home visiting coalition, the Early Learning Advisory Council, discussions around the QRIS, the development of a universal pre-school system, and our state’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge application.


  • Increasing the number of meetings with lawmakers. We have ramped up our meetings with key lawmakers during the interim and plan on meeting with an expanding list of champions over the next few months.


  • More Active in DC. I know it hard to imagine us doing more in this area but there is room for growth. We have traveled several times to DC over the last few months to meet with Senator Murray and her staff, key lawmakers and staff on our appropriations and policy committees, and the domestic policy council of the White House and Vice President Biden’s office in an effort to keep Head Start front and center. Like many of you our staff will be traveling to the Office of Head Start Birth to Five Institute in October and the NHSA Leadership Institute. This year we hope to also expand our contacts in DC and further develop our champions, especially in a difficult budget climate for Head Start.


WSA Budget

Over the past three years WSA has had a surplus each year due to increased participation in membership and sound fiscal planning and budgeting. This year is no different as we are likely to see a surplus of $25-30,000 which we will reinvest into services and supports for local programs. We want to let you know that every dollar we receive in dues is being carefully spent. Last year the board further strengthened our fiscal policies and procedures to ensure that no money is ever poorly spent or wasted and the board carefully reviews our budget at each meeting. Each year our books and procedures are evaluated by an independent CPA. I want to thank you for putting your trust in us and giving us the kind of support we so greatly value and appreciate.


Your Voice is Important!

We have two documents available—our proposed budget for the 2011-2012 and our proposed strategic plan.  If you have comments, concerns, or suggestions, we’d love to have them, and at the Fall Meeting in Chelan we will vote on these documents and on the proposed by-law changes which we will have to you at the end of September.  I hope this preview has given you a sense of what we are planning and thinking about. WSA really values and appreciates each of you and strives to provide the highest level of customer service to our members. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions or ideas you would like WSA to consider. You can me or Katy by email directly.


Joel M. Ryan                    

Executive Director

Washington State Association of Head Start & ECEAP/Washington State Training Consortium

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