Mary Tenney Castle, founder of the Samuel & Mary Castle Foundation, recognized the importance of Hawaii’s keiki, early on and pioneered the kindergarten movement in our State. Her commitment to quality early education and broadening access was designed to improve the lives of Hawaii’s children. The trustees of the Foundation remain committed to these principles by supporting efforts which have the potential to result in a more equitable Hawaii where children experience learning that leads them to become active, effective participants in our democracy.
During 2017, the Foundation distributed just under $2.3 million through its grant programs. Funding to improve quality in preschools includes helping schools meet accreditation standards, addressing facility needs and enhancing the effectiveness of teachers through professional development. The Foundation also offers pre-school tuition assistance for families in need and supports students at both Chaminade and the University of Hawaii pursuing early childhood degrees.
Building the capacity of the early learning work force remains the highest priority of the Foundation, as it is the teacher in the classroom who makes a difference for both children and their families. The chief vehicle for this work, beyond tuition assistance, is the Foundation’s partnership with the Erikson Institute of Chicago. Once again, in cooperation with KCCA’s CEED Center and Chaminade University, the Foundation has supported math and literacy workshops for early learning teachers. Interest among pre-K and K teachers, both public and private, has been so great that each workshop has far more applicants than it can admit. Both workshops are credited with changing teachers’ perspectives and practices as they attest to what they have learnedat each session’s final sharing.
Related to our efforts to enhance quality teaching is the Foundation’s support of the Executive Office on Early Learning and its efforts to provide professional development for administrators. This past fall, Ruby Takanishi and Bette Hyde were brought to Hawaii to participate in the EOEL’s Early Learning Academy and to support the work of its strategic planning steering committee. Seeking to expand pre-K access in the public sector is one of our objectives and doing so requires that both administrators and teachers become conversant with best practices and the landscape of early learning and child development.
The Samuel N. & Mary Castle Foundation also supports projects that will help move early learning forward in our community. One example from this past year is helping to underwrite a study of statewide early learning needs conducted by the Hawaii Children’s Action Network and the University of Hawaii Center on the Family. The resulting product, Hawai`i Early Learning Needs Assessment, describes the current capacity of Hawaii’s early childhood system, identifies underserved sectors and age groups, suggests priorities and actions and will serve as a base-line from which to measure progress. This endeavor in collaboration with the Annie E Casey Foundation and the USDA will help inform both policy makers and strategic planning.
The Foundation also sponsored, in partnership with HANO (Hawaii Alliance of Non-Profit Organizations), a workshop for preschool administrative staff focused on budgeting and fundraising. This free workshop was designed based upon an expressed need, not to replace Castle Colleagues but to continue to support the needs of our preschool leaders while plans are explored for the next iteration of Castle Colleagues. Continued once again this year was the program started a year ago to support existing well-established programs that address general family support. These grants are unrestricted, intended to support existing programs and designed to positively impact Hawaii’s at-risk, low income families.
The work of the Foundation is carried out by the Executive Director whose tireless efforts and creative solutions result in the success of our efforts. His participation locally is well-known and his leadership nationally as a member of the Early Childhood Education Funders Collaborative keeps the importance and urgency of early learning front-and-center on both stages.
We thank all of our partners who work on behalf of Hawaii’s keiki, especially those who nurture our most precious resource and enhance their opportunities for success.
Robert G. Peters