March 2, 2009 Rotogram

STATE GOVERNMENT

State Auditor Stacey Pickering is our speaker today.

NEXT WEEK

We gather here to honor our year’s award winners and enjoy fellowship next Monday evening. Social hour begins at 6:00 with dinner served at 6:45. Sign up today.

LAST WEEK

Invocation and Pledge: Bob Wolverton

Attendance: There were 118 members (38 exempt, 1 honorary) present, and 81 (17 exempt, 8 honorary) absent.

Guests and visitors: Members’ guests included Barbara Travis and Melissa Tenhet of Jack Forbus, Eric Hallberg of Larry Mullins, Michael Ball of Grant Arinder and Elton Moore of Richard Blackbourn. Guests of the Club were Jarred Reneau, Ambassadorial Cultural Scholar, and Taka Sato, Youth Exchange Student.

Rotary Minute: Emphasizing the importance of committees for Club success, President-elect Martha Wells asked for members to volunteer for assignments. This year, each committee will have a chair and vice chair as well as a pastchair to maintain programming continuity.

Meet and eat:  The Food and Facilities committee, chaired by Dave Boles, reports that we will maintain our relationship with the Starkville Country Club. Discussions with the Hilton Garden Inn revealed that the new restaurant only can seat 124 people and parking is limited.

MORE RODEO DETAILS

President Chip, quoting Bricklee Miller’s report on the impact of the 3rd Annual Rotary Classic Rodeo, noted the local economic impact was $665,108. Contestants competed for $20,349 in prize money. Of the 314 participants, 270 were from outside of Mississippi.

PROPOSED MEMBERS

The Classification Committee recommends two candidates for membership in the Club.

Eric Hallberg, a former member of our club operates Starkville Café and Cappe’s Steakhouse. Sponsored by Larry Mullins, his classification is Food Service.

Dr. Joel (Jody) Ray is sponsored by Dinah Jordan. His classification is Education—Veterinary Medicine Before returning to Starkville and his alma mater, MSU, Dr. Ray served as president, vice president and board member, and received the Service Above Self Award in the Savannah, Tenn. Club.

OUR LITERACY CONTRIBUTION

At the project’s mid-year mark, David Vanlandingham reports that the literacy committee is conducting post-assessment of the Between the Lions reading activities. Mississippi Public Broadcasting will tabulate the tests and report within a few weeks. Our first year of activities is being spent in the pre-school programs at the Emerson Family School and the First Presbyterian Childcare Center.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION IN MISSISSIPPI: MAKING IT PERSONAL

Language and socialization begin in infancy, so there is a strong need for early childhood education.

Cathy Grace, director of the Mississippi State University Early Childhood Institute, briefed us on this field in our state. She explained the multi-disciplinary program established 10 years ago in the College of Education to provide training, assistance and research to improve early childhood education in the state.

Brain development makes early childhood education very important.

Grace underlined her point with the medical assessment of a three-year-old’s brain activity. The brain scan of an adopted Romanian child who had been isolated in an orphanage, showed deficiency in the brain’s language-development area.

“The social and emotional area of the brain simply did not develop,” she said.

Noting that experts used to think that mental activity was not critical until three years of age, she said the new thinking is that intervention through childcare facilities should improve the situation.

Researchers now know that infants and toddlers benefit from immediate mental stimulation. As an example, she noted the growing use of sign language with infants before they have the capacity for speech.

Grace’s answer is to focus on low resource homes and neighborhoods that have less mental stimulation due to instability and work demands.

Mississippi is one of 10 states that do not fund pre-kindergarten education; however, she says that various funding sources have been “quilted” together to develop programs.

MSU is leading in monitoring the early childhood program sites that choose to participate in the Mississippi Childcare Quality Step System. A rating system like the Department of Health’s restaurant ratings, it recognizes programs that improve basic services to young children.

The system helps parents identify the best possible programs in the community.

The state does allocate $3 million for the quality rating system and Childcare Resource and Referral Centers managed by the Mississippi State University Extension Service. The R and R centers are the program’s teacher training arm.

At MSU, the Early Childhood Institute employs about 70 people for the effort. In 10 years at MSU, more than $30 million in grants and contracts have gone toward early childhood literacy.

However, says Grace, “In all of this, the real heroes are the early childhood caregivers who make about $1.50 less per hour than someone gutting catfish in the Delta. This offers a particular challenge in  MSU efforts trying to promote a career in early childhood education.

“Just remember, in 25 years, those children to whom you’re reading will be Starkville’s future,” she said.

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