Two-and-a-half months into the 2012-13 school year, California State Senator Joe Simitian wanted to see first-hand how Peninsula schools were faring in their first year offering Transitional Kindergarten (TK) classes to five-year-olds with late-year birthdays.
Therefore, around 10 a.m. Wednesday, Simitian pulled into the parking lot of Taft Elementary School in Redwood City, ready to visit with the TK class of teacher Susan Stanchfield.
Ready to greet him were Redwood City School District (RCSD) trustees Hilary Paulson and Dennis McBride, Superintendent Jan Christensen, and representatives from Preschool California.
After greeting everyone, Simitian jumped right in to play with the children.
Christensen expressed her happiness over how well RCSD's TK program is going, and what a wonderful thing she thinks it is for the children.
"We've really worked hard to do this right," she said, proudly introducing Marilyn Silicani, a retired principal from the district who recently came back to serve as its Director of Transitional Kindergarten.
As the group watched Stanchfield lead a session of poem reading and practicing the letter of the day, Christensen marveled at how well the children were doing, and said, "This is why TK is so important - it's truly preparing them for kindergarten, and the future ahead."
Simitian shared a story of how he had recently looked over a student's kindergarten report card, in which there was a section that commented on the student's "grasp of algebraic principles."
"Kindergarten today is not what it used to be; and a lot of people don't realize that," he said.
"The children are doing beautifully," Stanchfield said. "This gift of time we're giving them is so important."
Everyone in the group also had another happy occurence on their minds - the passage of Proposition 30 in Tuesday's election.
Proposition 30 will temporarily raise the state's sales tax by a quarter-cent as well as levy income tax increases on wealthier Californians - those who make $250,000 per year or more - for a period of seven years.
Both Simitian and Christensen agreed with everyone that the passage was a happy thing, but cautioned everyone not to get ahead of themselves.
"I'm concerned people will think this means more [money for schools]," he said. "Really, this just means holding on."
In other words, Proposition 30 means previously planned cuts should no longer take place - so schools can "hold on" to what they currently have - but it does not mean they will be getting any additional funding.
"This district is still going to be short," Christensen said. "We will be making cuts to next year's budget."
However, Christensen and Silicani said TK remains a priority in RCSD.
Currently, the district has two TK classrooms - the one at Taft, and another one at Fair Oaks Elementary. As the birthday cut-off for entry into kindergarten continues to roll back - as of 2014-15, students must be 5 years old by Sept. 1 from there forward - Christensen and Silicani say the district will continue to expand the program and add additional classrooms on more campuses.
In addition to visiting with the children and checking on the progress of TK on the Peninsula, Simitian also had another reason to be happy on Wednesday.
The representatives from Preschool California chose to present Simitian with an award in front of the whole class and its visitors - their Early Learning Lifetime Achievement Award, for his part in authoring the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 and getting it passed in the State Senate.
“I am honored by the recognition,” said Simitian.
See our video and photo slideshow of Simitian accepting his award and visiting with the students above.
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