Gov. Jay Nixon visits Chadwick to award a Smart Start early-childhood grant

The CFO’s Julie Leeth speaks at Gov. Jay Nixon’s announcement that Chadwick schools won a Missouri Smart Start grant for an early-childhood center. At right is Jacklyn Aldrich, the special education director who wrote the grant.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Chadwick schools today to announce the district won a competitive grant of $937,500 to build an early-childhood education center through the Missouri Smart Start program.

The CFO was invited to participate in the announcement because the CFO will receive the grant on behalf of the school district, which will build a 5,000-square-foot facility to house three classrooms for three-year-olds, four-year-olds and pre-K special education students.

“You are taking meaningful steps to give your children the best possible start,” Gov. Nixon told the assembled educators, parents and local leaders in the eastern Christian County district, which has about 200 students. “It’s clear there is a focus on education here.”

He cited the growing body of evidence that children’s brain development and the long-term success in school are determined before they ever reach kindergarten. An emphasis on quality early-childhood education increases the likelihood for success on both cognitive and socio-emotional levels.

“We can prevent much more difficult and expensive problems down the line,” he said, noting that a second Smart Start grant also was announced today in El Dorado Springs.

Jacklyn Aldrich, Chadwick’s special education director who wrote the successful grant, said the community currently has no pre-school services available. While Chadwick students will have priority for the 45 slots that will be available, any remaining openings could serve nearby Taneyville, Sparta and Bradleyville students as well. The district does not yet have a timetable for opening the center and needs to find additional resources for infill, supplies and equipment, she said.

CFO Executive Vice President Julie Leeth expressed appreciation for the Chadwick Education Foundation, which was one of the earliest members of the CFO’s Rural Schools Partnership in 2009. The CFO has been involved in two other collaborative projects with the school district – a mission-related loan to help close the financing gap for a combination classroom space and storm shelter; and a Coover Charitable Foundation place-based education grant for an outdoor classroom area.

“We believe schools are the anchors of the rural Ozarks and if the schools don’t succeed, neither will their communities,” she said.