3Qs: Danny Spreitler, Gilmore Foundation

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

During Friday’s Dropout Prevention Summit, Gilmore Foundation Executive Director Danny Spreitler spoke about his foundation’s efforts to prepare Monroe County’s 4-year-old children for school.
The Gilmore Early Learning Initiative works with existing childcare centers, tutors pre-K and kindergarten children and provides resources. This year, it partnered with the Amory and Monroe County School Districts to teach pre-K classes on their campuses.
As Mississippi considers a law that would encourage collaborative early-education efforts, Daily Journal education reporter Chris Kieffer spoke to Spreitler about GELI.

Q: What are the lessons you’ve learned from the early learning initiative?
A: The number one lesson we have learned is the home life of our young children greatly influences their outcomes. When children go hungry, they can’t pay attention. When children have a broken home, they come to class with a broken spirit. There is nothing more important we can do than improve the home lives of our children.
The second lesson is the only way to change every single child’s life is through collaboration. Also, money is not going to solve the problem.

Q: What advice do you have for other communities trying to replicate what you are doing?
A: Listen. We have a lot of people who talk, but not everyone listens. When communities come together, they need to listen to what each demographic and social group brings to the table.
In early childhood, the most important person in creating your plan is kindergarten teachers. They have the great opportunity to work with the strengths and weaknesses of all 5-year-olds. The most important thing is relationships we have with our schools and district.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you have faced?
A: The biggest challenge is creating a partnership that works, especially today in Mississippi. Public schools are getting beat up every day. It is very difficult to build trust when people you love and trust are getting beat up every day. We do everything honesty and openly. There is no hidden agenda.
You will also get your heart broken. People can talk about the plights of children, but when it hits you, it breaks your heart.