Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Mar 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

A Tale of Three PENS

news2Local preschool teachers receive community hero award and fight to keep their schools open
The go-to source for Santa Cruz statistics was released last month. Along with providing a plethora of data, the Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project Report (CAP) honors dedicated citizens who contribute to the community’s social health. This year, a group of teachers from a network of parent-interactive preschools have received recognition for their betterment of early education. But, honors aside, the preschools are facing economic woes  that threaten their survival.

The CAP Report is an annual almanac that reports the x, y and z’s of Santa Cruz County. Since 1994, the report has supplied citizens with raw data concerning a variety of community interests, such as public safety, health and education.

Every five years, the CAP team also polls a cross section of community members to develop a set of community goals that aim for social enrichment of the community. The project selects “community heroes” based on their dedication and local activism towards these stated goals, according to Amalia Ellis, the administrative services coordinator of United Way of Santa Cruz, the organization behind the CAP Report.

This year’s community heroes include a group of teachers from the three sister schools that comprise the county’s Parent Education Nursery Schools (PENS) system. This group of teachers has more than 150 years of combined teaching experience among them, according to the CAP website. They were selected for their commitment to Education Goal #3: “By the year 2010, more schools will have a pre-kindergarten program available for all children.”  Ellis notes that this group has been dedicated to pre-kindergarten education for an extended period of time. The other two goals for education this year were to have more students working at grade level, and to have more students ready for college and transfer-ready from community colleges into four-year colleges and universities.

At the three PENS campuses located throughout Santa Cruz County, education goes beyond typical classroom structure in which there is one teacher and a flock of children. The PENS schools have a system that includes parent involvement in the classroom, giving each child more individual attention.

“It’s a program where parents work in classrooms with kids,” says Wendy Wyckoff, one of the recipients of the Community Hero award and a teacher at Santa Cruz PENS (SCPENS). “The parents are learning educational skills as well as doing experimental work involved in an education program … I believe that being able to work directly with the parents, sets the tone for how the family runs and helps parents make good connections with their kids.” Wyckoff, who has worked for PENS for the past 17 years and in adult education for 24 years, adds, “It’s an honor to be honored for serving the community.”

Despite the PENS mission to integrate adult and preschool education and their presence in the community for upwards of 60 years, these schools face looming closure. This spring, the PENS community found out that due to a redistribution of funds in the Santa Cruz City School District and the ongoing state budget crisis, the funding they receive for adult education would be cut. The three schools, Soquel PENS, SCPENS and Westside PENS, managed to remain open through this year thanks to a rapid-fire fundraising drive and the support of loyal parents and community members.

To stay open, the PENS have had to make some sacrifices in addition to what Myckoff describes as “fundraising like crazy.”  Teachers’ hours have been cut and a small tuition increase has been placed upon the families whose parents and children attend the schools.

Luckily for PENS, the program’s commitment to enriching nursery school education has galvanized its supporters and ignited activism among the parents of the program. A group of these dedicated parents and followers of the program set up a website, 3pens.org, that encourages people to “be a hero” and provide donations to ensure that children and parents can enjoy the benefits of the program for years to come.

The whirlwind fundraising of 3PENS also extends beyond the confines of the web. On Dec. 9, it hosted an alumni event called “The Real Superheroes” at the Seymour Center. The event celebrated the teachers’ recognition as community heroes and encouraged members of the 3PENS community to become “the real superheroes” by ensuring the program’s viability. If 3PENS can raise $25,000 in donations, an anonymous donor will match the amount.

Because of the activism and concern about the program’s closure, Wyckoff says that the schools will definitely be able to remain open through the year. She notes however, that with trepidation the program’s security is not ensured and that they are “not out of the woods.”

Comments (1)Add Comment
WPENS alumni
written by Cindy Fuhrmann, December 16, 2010
Both my children attended WPENS. It was a wonderful lifetime experience that we continue to thrive from. We are still connected with the WPENS community of families. My children still have lasting friendships with the other students. I will cherish those moments forever. I pray this programs stays in our community. It is well worth it.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015

In 40 years of publishing, Good Times has seen a lot of “bests.”

 

Spring Triangle: Three Spring Festivals—Aries, Taurus, Gemini

The Spring signs Aries, Taurus and Gemini constitute a triangle of force that sets the template for the nine signs that follow and the template for the entire year (Spring 2015 - Spring 2016) ahead. Aries initiates new ideas, Taurus stabilizes the new thinking of Aries and Gemini takes the initiating stabilized ideas of Aries/Taurus and disperses them to all of humanity. It is in this way that humanity learns new things, with the help of Mercury, the messenger. As Spring unfolds, three elements emerge: the Fire of Aries (initiating new ideas), the Earth of Taurus (anchoring the ideas of God through Mercury) and the Air of communicating Gemini. These three signs/elements are the Three Spring Festivals. They are the “triangle of force” forming the template (patterns) of energy for the upcoming new year. After these three we then have the soothing, calming, warming, nurturing and tending waters of the mother (Cancer). Cancer initiates our next season under the hot suns of summer. Planets, stars and signs create the Temple of Light directing humanity towards all things new. March 29 is Palm Sunday, when the Christ, World Teacher, was led into Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (humility). Palms waving above His head, signified recognition of the Christ’s divinity. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before the Easter (Resurrection Festival). Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, the week of capture, imprisonment, passion, sacrifice, crucifixion, death and resurrection of the christ. All events in the Christ’s life represent events (initiations) that humanity experiences through many lifetimes. We turn our attention to these holy events this week. Their concepts portray and reveal to us greater spiritual understanding. Then, Aries, the “light of life itself” shines through us.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

The Magic Touch

Stage magician vs. charlatans in engaging ‘An Honest Liar’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Spring Spirits

Sean Venus’ gin straight up, remembering Rosa’s and a tasting of Hungarian wines

 

What’s your favorite most recent outdoor discovery in Santa Cruz?

A hike that’s across from Waddell Beach. I didn’t realize you could go across the highway and do a super simple loop, and it’s beautiful. You can see the coastline. Liz Porter, Santa Cruz, Community Outreach

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Muscat 2012

 

Front Street Kitchen

Pop-up spot attracts paleo crowd with locally sourced low-carb meals