Council Update: Council proclaims July as Summer Learning Month

Summer learning, to ensure children don’t lose educational gains made during the school year, was even more challenging last year because of COVID-19. Yet Palm Beach County students in kindergarten through 2nd grade unexpectedly, and counter-intuitively, experienced less learning loss in summer 2020 than summer 2019. 

The Palm Beach County School District’s diagnostic assessments found that almost 13 percent of students in those grades declined in reading proficiency in summer 2020, compared to 54 percent in 2019. While experts don’t yet know why fewer students had learning losses (although they are considering the impact of children taking assessments at home instead of in school), all agree that any loss can hamper children’s future success in school. 

With that in mind, Children’s Services Council board this month proclaimed July as Summer Learning Month and July 12-16 specifically as “Summer Learning Week 2021.”

In other business

Birth Outcomes Workshop: In a workshop with the Council entitled, “Achieving Equity in Birth Outcomes,” staff reviewed data, as well as CSC services and investments focused on healthy births. Staff also reviewed the social determinants of health, and their impact on racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes. For example in 2019, 7.6 percent of PBC babies were born pre-term (before 37 weeks gestation) to white mothers, compared to 15.3 percent of babies born to Black mothers.

Staff and Council discussed potential areas of programmatic/funding focus and also introduced community experts and thought partners to the discussion. They included Dr. Alina Alonso, county director for Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County; Dr. Colette Brown-Graham, a board-certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who has a practice in Wellington; and Michelle Gonzalez, CEO of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Palm Beach County. A recording of the workshop soon will be available on CSC’s website by clicking here.

COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Update: CSC staff, in partnership with the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach State College and the School District, engaged with the child care provider community to learn more about specific challenges, and opportunities for recovery, related to COVID-19. When the group applied a racial equity lens, the Glades child care community became an area to focus on because of its unique challenges, including: 100 percent of Family Child Care Home owners are women of color; a large number of these providers are often overlooked when distributing supports/resources; this area was hardest hit by COVID-19; this community tends to be geographically isolated.

Following the surveys and interviews, CSC funded COVID-19 relief payments to 56 Glades-area child care sites (totaling $404,000) for help with operations, health and safety supplies, equipment, classroom materials and staffing. In addition to financial resources, CSC staff and partners are collaborating with other organizations to connect child care programs with additional resources in the community.

Oral History Project: The Council received an update on The Palm Beach County African American Oral History Virtual Pilot Project, which was launched in July 2020. The project, supported by CSC, allowed students from the Palm Beach County School District and interns from Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBAU) to interview elders in Belle Glade, Delray Beach, Pahokee, Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach, to gain an oral history of life in Palm Beach County, particularly during racial segregation. Dr. Alisha Winn, the project director, is an applied cultural anthropologist and adjunct professor at PBAU. She guided the students as they learned about local history, research methods, issues surrounding race and more. Students also learned about virtual document management, organizational development and collective impact.

The project is now complete and will be shared with the community. Snapshots of the interviews are available on the Instagram Story page PBCAAOHProject.

Water Safety Videos: Staff shared eight new videos with the Council focused on summer water safety. The short, fun videos feature costumed mascots of local governments/organizations to convey easy-to-remember messages about family safety in and around water. The mascots include: Buddy the Seahorse from Palm Beach County’s Drowning Prevention Coalition; Mia the Manatee from Manatee Lagoon; Freddy the Alligator from South Florida Water Management District; Laguna the Spotted Eagle Ray from Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management and Oakly the Squirrel from Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation Department. Visit CSCPBC’s YouTube page to watch the videos by clicking here.

Tribute to Harry A. Johnston II: The Council paid tribute to state Sen. Harry A. Johnston II, who passed away this month, and noted that they are forever thankful for his leadership, persistence and heart. In the mid-1980s, Sen. Johnston took a bold step, urging his peers in the Florida Legislature to allow local communities to tax themselves on behalf of children and families. The result? Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County and nearly a dozen other independent CSCs across the state. In comments during that time, Sen. Johnston stated: “In every child who is born, the potential of the human race is born again; and in every child who is born, there is born in us a responsibility to that child, and to the future of our country.”

CSC takes these words to heart and work every day to bring Sen. Johnston’s vision, and that of his fellow advocates, to life.

About Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County

The Council is a local, special-purpose government created by Palm Beach County voters in 1986 and reauthorized in 2014. For more than 30 years, it has provided leadership, funding, services and research on behalf of the county’s children so they grow up healthy, safe and strong.

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