New fund aims to reduce local PAT waiting list



Ron and Danaye Dies had barely brought infant son Wyatt from the hospital to their Lehigh home when a representative from Parents as Teachers was standing at their front door.

?They come out when you have a baby and give you a care package and talk with you about the PAT program,? Danaye said.

It didn?t take long to convince the new parents that PAT, the family support organization that is supported financially by the six school districts in Marion County, had something good to offer them?and at the perfect price.

?We decided, since it was a free program, as new parents it would be a really good idea to have somebody come in and help us out with teaching Wyatt and giving us some direction,? she said.

Some three years later, Danaye Dies has become an advocate of sorts for the program.

?I?ve talked about it with friends of mine?I let them know what we?re doing,? she said with a chuckle.

What PAT has been doing for the Dies family?and the 27 other families and 29 children being served?has been comprehensive and extremely helpful.

?Their teachers are so good with the kids,? she said. ?They know so much about children and their development.

?They answer questions you might have, like about developmental issues or behavior,? she said. ?(The PAT teacher) brings games, and we sit on the floor and play together.

?She also gives tests every so often, to see where they?re at developmentally, or if they?re lacking in one area and we need to work on that.

Add to that the activities PAT plans for the families?such as Big Truck Night, trips to the zoo and reading times at the library?and the impact has been significant on the whole family, including Ron when he?s not traveling for his job.

?There really isn?t any reason why you shouldn?t want to do it,? Danaye said. ?It can only benefit you and your child and help them learn before they get to school. I think it?s a tool that every parent should use if they can.?

Wyatt seems to enjoy it, too. The Dies family?s teacher, Lori SooHoo, also happens to direct the program.

?Wyatt really likes Lori,? Danaye said. ?He calls her Aunt Lori?even though I tell him no, she?s your teacher, not you aunt, he just goes right back to saying Aunt Lori.?

More funds needed

For all the benefits, the Dies family has experienced one of the biggest challenges facing Parents as Teachers?finding sufficient funding to serve all the families who are requesting services.

?There was a waiting list, and we waited probably a whole year before we got somebody to finally come out,? Danaye said.

Currently, USD 410 has 20 families on its waiting list.

?The concern there is that we won?t ever be able to address the waiting list?and, really, it keeps growing,? said Steve Noble, USD 410 superintendent.

That?s one reason Noble will be making a pitch at the Hills?boro High School All School Reunion this Saturday for donations to the new USD 410 Early Childhood Education Fund established through the Hills?boro Community Founda?tion.

Basically, the focus of the fund is for Parents as Teachers to expand its services to waiting families within the district.

?We believe that it?s the best dollar we can spend,? Noble said of programs like Parents as Teachers.

Recent research by the Rand Corp. shows that every dollar spent on an early-childhood program like Parents as Teachers brings an economic benefit back to the community between $1.80 and $17 because children are better prepared for success in school and beyond.

Currently, most of PAT?s operating budget of around $100,000 comes through state and federal funding and grants. The six school districts kick in $25,000 through self-assessments based on enrollment. The program currently serves about 100 children countywide.

USD 410?s portion of the assessment income is $8,115. The intention of the USD 410 the Early Childhood Education Fund is to generate additional dollars specifically to serve USD 410 families on the waiting list.

?As a school district, we believe early intervention is the best investment we can make,? Noble said.

The new fund, which was officially established last December, currently amounts to about $24,000, thanks to several private donations, including a large gift from one anonymous donor.

?Our goal with the alumni campaign is to get to the $50,000 mark,? Noble said. ?If we can get there, that converts this fund into an endowed fund, and we will be able to withdraw 5 percent of the interest earned each year to support PAT.?

That amounts to $2,500, which means getting only two or three families off the waiting list.

?As it grow we can continue to serve more families,? Noble said. ?The ultimate goal is being able to serve all of the families on the waiting list. Of course, it will take a lot of money to be able to do that.?

Given the recent trend in state and federal spending, earnings from the fund may serve a second, less hopeful purpose, too.

?If by chance the funding from the state of Kansas, and from some of the grant-funding entities of the federal government, dries up?which is always a real possibility?the other purpose of this money is to sustain some sort of an early child program, such as PAT, in Marion County long?term.?

Donations to the USD 410 Early Childhood Education Fund can be made anytime by contacting Kathy Decker, HCF executive director, at 620-947-0170.


































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