Coatesville, PA – (By Bob Ludwick) Standing at the podium during the September 21 dedication ceremony of the Gordon Early Literacy Center in Coatesville, State Representative Harry Lewis Jr. (R-74) spoke with pride.
“This building has been involved in so many levels of education,” said Representative Lewis, a Coatesville native, a graduate of Coatesville Area High School and a 40-year educator in the Coatesville Area School District prior to entering the political arena. “It was an elementary school, a junior high school, an alternative school, a college campus. I remember when this site was for driver’s ed and the state police driver’s tests. It’s had good days and bad days, and look at how we have revived it today.”
The Gordon Early Literacy Center is a cutting-edge preschool center for Coatesville area children ages 3-to-5 years that encompasses 18 new preschool classrooms. The center’s 320 students have access to high quality preschool education, instructional technology and related services and supports in order to promote school readiness.
“It’s the only one of its kind (in the state),” said Representative Lewis. “We’re actually doing the job and walking the walk. Coatesville has a proud tradition, and it’s time to revisit that tradition. I’m proud of the partnership that made this happen. I want this to make the Commonwealth and the county proud of Coatesville’s achievement.”
The Center is a unique partnership between the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), the Coatesville Area School District (CASD) and the United Way of Chester County. The school’s 18 classrooms include nine Head Start classrooms, four preschool special education classrooms, four Coatesville Area School District classrooms and United Way’s Uniting Neighbors Impacting Families and Youth classroom.
And, it’s free to students.
The Gordon Early Literacy Center is a public and private partnership that receives federal and state grants to fund and operate Head Start and Preschool Special Education services. Additionally, CASD and CCIU are contributing additional funds to operate classrooms for children that are not covered through the available grants. The governing bodies that oversee the preschool services are supportive of this blended funding model.
“The Gordon Early Literacy Center is proof of the good work that we can accomplish through public and private partnerships,” said Dr. Joseph O’Brien, Executive Director of the CCIU. “This project has united neighbors and community organizations together to have a positive impact on the children and families in our Coatesville community. This unity is evident in the many distinguished guests and illustrious speakers who are here today.”
Other speakers included CASD Board President, Dean A. Snyder; CCIU Board President, Bonnie J. Wolff of the Avon Grove School District; Coatesville Area School District Superintendent, Dr. Cathy Taschner; United Way of Chester County Executive Director, Claudia Hellebush; state Senator, Andy Dinniman of West Whiteland (D-19); and Pennsylvania Chapter NAACP President, Dr. Joan Evelyn Duvall-Flynn.
Two resounding themes came through loud and clear in the words voiced by the speakers — the incredible and unique partnership between the CCIU, the school district and the United Way that brought this idea to fruition; and the importance that quality childhood education brings to future success in school and in life.
Taschner called early literacy the foundation of a student’s future success and said the Coatesville Area School Board’s “commitment was unwavering.” The addition of the preschool classrooms is part of the CASD’s Literacy Equity Initiative. The September opening of the Gordon Early Literacy Center coincided with the Ready to Read program for Kindergartners, which is fundamental to the district’s “on-grade by third grade” reading efforts.
“The Gordon Early Literacy Center is proof what can happen when we work together,” Taschner said.
Her sentiments were echoed by Wolff. “It takes an entire community to work together in order for children to get the education they deserve, said Wolff. “It takes a village, a true partnership of public and private entities.”
Hellebush, who cited the monetary efforts of United Way companies in helping the Gordon Literacy Center come to fruition, said she and O’Brien first talked a year ago about the need and possibility of a literacy center. Now, they are “looking forward to growing this program to the point it grows past this building.”
Senator Dinniman said, “Today we celebrate every child having a chance to succeed (through early education), and that’s what it is all about. Every child gets a head start, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”
Duvall-Flynn said early literacy is a focus agenda item of the NAACP. “We know all the benefits and how essential it is,” she said. “Let’s enjoy this and let’s see if we can replicate it in other places in Pennsylvania.”
Following the remarks, a ribbon-cutting officially opened the literacy center. A reception and tours of the building followed. Those in attendance also were treated to a performance of the ABC song by children in the Head Start program.
Photo Caption 1: The Gordon Early Literacy Center celebrates its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Photo Caption 2: Victoria Miller, one of the new CASD preschool teachers, participates in the opening celebration along with a Head Start student. Head Start students performed the ABC song at the Gordon Early Literacy Center grand opening ceremony.