All posts by Seca Reporter

Are You A Leader or A Manager?

Written by Dr. Cathy Grace, Senior Director of Affiliate Relations & Partnerships

The line between being a leader and a manager often becomes blurred since early care and education professionals “wear” many hats!  It can be exhausting to do one, much less two or more jobs within a program serving infants through school age children and their parents. Time management is the key to keeping sane and accomplishing goals set for yourself and program. The following self-assessment questions are for consideration if you want to move more into daily leadership and less consumed with managerial duties.

1. Do you have a long range plan for yourself and/or your program with measureable short-term objectives to meet and guide your progress? Do you involve staff in developing and evaluating it?

2. Do you believe in building a team to accomplish your goals or are you “calling” all the shots?

3. Do you have a rule that will control the type and number of personal non-essential text messages and calls from family and friends you answer during the day?

4. Have you done a time management study so you can determine the amount of time that you “waste” off task during the day? (You will be amazed!)

5. Does your staff share your vision of the goal(s) of your program? Do they know the goal(s)?

6. Do you have written procedures for staff to follow and are they held accountable for following them?

7. Do you reinforce staff who do a good job by letting them know you are watching and are appreciative of their work?

8. Could your program run as effectively as when you are there if you were called away for a week due to an emergency?

9. Are parents given opportunities routinely to engage with you and staff to provide ideas that would lead to improved practices?

10. Do you make time to read updated material from professional early childhood associations and research organizations at least one hour a week?

11. Do you spend more time “putting out fires” or reviewing and implementing strategies that will improve the quality of the program? Why?

Keep in mind that the size of a program and other potential factors such as the state child care licensing regulations will impact how some of the tips are used.

More leadership resources including past issues of The Leadership Letter are available on the SECA website by clicking HERE





SECA Continues Working Hard for Continuum of Member Needs

BY Jo Carroll, SECA President

The SECA organization continues to amaze me in the dedication of a wide array of people who have the heart and knowledge to work with the young children in our southern states. There are commonalities that are shared and yet uniqueness of individual programs and classrooms. I think we can all agree that there is not one right way to guide or teach young children. There are many things to take into consideration when working with young children and their families.

Just as programs and classrooms have their own personalities, we as individuals have our own beliefs and needs. One of the things I love about being a part of the early childhood profession is our attempt to meet individual needs of the children in our care.

The SECA organization is working to meet the needs of a wide variety of people from students studying to become early childhood professionals to those who have been in the field for many years. It is my desire that more of our members become more involved in the work of the organization. I started my affiliation with SECA as a college student because I had a professor who became a mentor and was insistent that I become involved as a student and beyond.

I would encourage each of you as members to do three things to continue your growth as an early childhood professional. One, find a way to get involved within your state affiliate and/or serve on a committee within the SECA organization. If you need assistance in doing so, reach out to your state president and/or your SECA board member. Two, if you have been in the field of early childhood education for more than one year, consider mentoring someone new in the field. Lastly, find a core of fellow professionals with whom to share your experiences. Be sure this is a group who can lift each other up and have the desire to continue to grow as professionals.

If you have never attended a SECA conference, please consider coming to join us February 28th through March 2nd in Orlando at the Double Tree at Sea World. There will be many events and sessions to assist you in growing as a professional and in networking with others in the field. We are celebrating SECA being 70 years strong. I look forward to meeting many of you there!

This article is from the December 2018 issue of Dimensions of Early Childhood.  Members of SECA can access the entire issue in the members only section of the website by clicking here

Debbie Ferguson Elected New President-Elect for SECA


Dear SECA Members,

It is my pleasure to announce that our new SECA President-elect is Debbie Ferguson from Tennessee. She will officially take office as President-elect on January 1st. Floyd Creech, being his normal gracious self, wishes Debbie the best. He truly wants SECA to succeed and will continue to support SECA by serving on the editorial committee. I want to thank both of these SECA supporters for their dedication to our organization and I look forward to continuing to work with both of them. We will publish this news on our website in the near future.

Jo Carroll

SECA President

From Floyd Creech:

Dear SECA family,
My sincere congratulations go out to Debbie. She will make a dedicated and faithful president. I am very proud of her and have watched her for many years as she a served Seca in a quiet and loyal manner during the conferences. I know that Tennessee must be very pleased to have one of their own as President-elect.
Many thanks for your support.
Floyd Creech

Call for Manuscripts Special Issue 2019

Dimensions of Early Childhood Special Issue 2019


High quality early childhood experiences are indicative of our commitment to children. In order to provide high quality early childhood experiences, we encourage educators to joyfully embrace young children and their families through developmentally, culturally and inclusive relevant practices. As such, manuscript submissions are invited for a special issue of Dimensions of Early Childhood that focuses on Embracing the Joy. Authors are encouraged to submit original research as well as practitioner ideas following our submission guidelines. Topics may include (but not limited to) the following:

Embracing the Joy

  • Bringing joy back to the classroom through the use of play-based, developmentally appropriate practices that focus on intentional teaching.
  • Creating enriched and joyful lives through the promotion of optimal social-emotional development of young children.
  • Supporting the joy of early childhood professionals through the implementation of a career ladder and tools to help them with work/life balance.
  • Adding joy to learning through arts integration and STEAM activities in early childhood classrooms.
  • Innovative strategies for joyful learning in the higher education early childhood education program.
  • Facilitating joy in families through innovative supports and advocacy.
  • Strategies for inclusive practices for children of special abilities.
  • Developing joyful environments for dual language learners and their families.
  • Nurturing joy in the care of infants and toddlers.

Authors are asked to follow the guidelines for submission:  Submitted manuscripts will follow the same review process. Manuscripts must be submitted by December 1, 2018.  Special issue will be published March 2019.

If you have any questions, please contact Mari Riojas-Cortez, Ph.D., Editor, at

Dimensions of Early Childhood is the professional journal published three times per year by the Southern Early Childhood Association.

Why are faith-based early childhood settings important for children?

Here in the South we are known for our faith, football, and fried chicken.  Many of our preschool and childcare programs are connected with churches, either as a ministry or as shared space.  At last year’s annual conference, SECA began conversations with providers from these settings in order to better understand how these programs differ from publicly-supported, or independently-operated private centers.  SECA also wants to help connect professionals serving in these programs with the wider early childhood community, so that all of our voices may be heard.  Finally, SECA wants to learn what kinds of support are needed in our faith-based early education settings.  We are extending these conversations here.

In this post, we wonder why our members think that faith-based settings are important to children.  Those who engaged with us at conference feel that sharing values during the early years is just as much a part of whole-child development as the other common domains.  Growing them in faith and knowledge, and helping little ones build a foundation is part of spiritual development.  Just as the first years give us opportunity to give children the skills to love reading, solve problems, feel competent, or take another perspective, we can also utilize this time to help them understand the world and themselves from a place of purpose.

Some of our church-based settings can extend the community of the church, as church members participate in the program activities together; serving as volunteers, sharing needed ideas or items, enjoying the successes of our children’s growth.   Community can also be extended to non-members of the church in the same manners.  These programs can serve as ways to reach out, connect with resources, and to develop trusting, nurturing relationships among all involved.  When managed well, early childhood settings within the church can truly be a vital ministry of the church.

What do you think?

  • How important are faith based settings to children and why?
  • What are some ways that church sponsored (or housed) programs can be beneficial to children and families?



Kathy Chase Young has served as a childcare director for twelve years, nine of which were in a faith based non-profit center for single parents and low socioeconomic families.  She spent nine years teaching in a church-based preschool classroom. In 2010, she developed a program called “Creation Exploration” which is an exciting annual event pairing children with science experiences from  a biblical world view.

Discussing Delays with Background Checks

Last month we sent members an article on the challenges of getting background checks on new hires returned in a timely manner. Several of you responded and we’d like to continue the conversation here. If you missed the article you can view it here.

Just a few thoughts from your fellow colleagues are below. Read them and then let us know your thoughts or suggestions!

As a person with a misdemeanor for possession of marijuana it does not preclude me from working. I am up front about my possession and it has prevented me from getting some jobs especially those of a corporation. Which is fine for me. But like I said I am up front so there are no surprises. It’s a shame though something I did when I was 19 cannot be forgiven now that I am 57. Theresa, VA

Everybody with a record is not guilty and the only reason an expungement or pardon has not been issued is because no one will allow them the opportunity to make money.  Some people I know have a misdemeanor dating back 7 years ago and no other occurrences with the law, but cannot work!  There are some people who have committed serious crimes but had them expunged that are working with our children.  I feel that background checks should only go back 5 years if there is criminal activity in that period of time then the person should not be hired. Nico, SC

I have been in the child care field for over 30 years.  In all that time I have never dealt with a problem due to this issue; but I can see how centers, desperate for workers, could run into problems.  Centers should not be allowed to leave a worker who does not have the background check completed and returned alone at any time.  Ever, with no exceptions.  That is the policy of the school where I am currently employed.  It can make staffing challenging, but the risks should not be taken.
Maybe the laws should be changed to reflect this. Jennifer, VA

It has not affected me personally. My daughter had to pay for her SLED check before she was issued a teacher’s license in South Carolina. Maybe childcare workers need to be licensed also.
Minimum requirements should include this crucial check for everyone who we trust our children to. Becky, SC

I own a daycare in Louisiana and this has never been an issue for me. Actually in LA, a daycare employee must have a satisfactory background check on file before they can start work in the center in any department. Before someone can be hired at my center they must first complete a Central State Registry Form (CSR) stating that they have not been convicted or registered as a sex offender. (I have to know this before I even hand them an application because if they answer yes, then I won’t waste my time with an application.) Once that has been established then they must complete a criminal background check through the LA Sheriffs Association, which can take between 3 days to a month for processing. At my center the background check must come back clean. If there is a rap sheet attached with something as little as an arrest for simple battery, I still submit it to Childcare Licensing for approval. Then and only then, with a clear background or approval from licensing will I continue with the application process.

The children in my center are just like my very own and I will go over and beyond to provide the best for them no matter what. For those concerned about being short staff or out of ratio, I’d rather turn a child or two around if I’m short than to hire a criminal to work with my children. I’ve done if before and that’s why I get so much respect and trust from my parents and it is also why my business is so successful. Some centers only focus is not losing a dollar so they hire anyone to keep from losing kids… well that’s when your problems start. I’ve been in business now for 3 years and I’m all about the best for the children and not what’s best for my pocket.

However I believe they should check with the LA Sheriff Association to get information on their Criminal background process and I personally recommend not hiring anyone until you receive their background check. Swanzetta, LA

I viewed the video – and as a center director, I’ve got to say that I believe that most centers work as hard as they can with all the regulations put on us.  I seriously doubt that the parents want to pay a lot more per week in fees so that I can employ an extra staff member just in case I find myself shorthanded.  I’m not advocating irresponsibility however, what would that parent actually propose to help? Simply tightening the regulations isn’t the answer.  Child care is not a lucrative business in the first place.  Most of us cannot hire extra staff “just in case” someone quits.

In a nutshell, somehow the process of the background check has to be sped up or perhaps accept a state background check while waiting for the national check.  I don’t believe any child care center wants to hire the wrong person, but the resources we rely on need to be a bit faster, otherwise it is so very difficult to always comply. Ruth, VA

Mark Polevoy joins SECA as Executive Director

Lets Start Talking


Moving from the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania to Little Rock, AR, settling into a new state, new home, new routine and new job is not easy. Unless you were fortunate enough to be hired by SECA. Since my arrival I have received a tremendous amount of warm welcoming emails, telephone calls and a plant. A plant I now refer to as, “My Louisiana Lilly.”

It is a privilege to be part of an organization that desires to deliver high quality services and innovative solutions to members, while executing it’s mission to improve the industry in which we operate. We are an organization led by a purpose – to make a positive, meaningful impact that matters to everyone SECA members touch.

I encourage you to contact me to share your thoughts and ideas concerning issues for the Early Childhood profession. Or you can just email me your suggestions for good fly-fishing locations and southern barbecue joints, not necessarily in that order.

I am eager to hear what you have to say. In your reply please include the position you hold in the Early Childhood Profession.

I look forward to opening up a dialogue.



Mark Polevoy
New Executive Director of SECA


The Southern Early Childhood Association (SECA) serving more than 14,000 early childhood professionals in AL, MS, VA, WV, NC, SC, KY, GA, OK, Fl, LA, TN, TX, and AR.


Connecting Your Professional Oxygen Mask

You spend your days working hard to support others, meeting the needs of staff, children, and families.   You chose this work and find joy and meaning in the results of your efforts.  As much as you look forward to going to work (most days!), it can be a very challenging job.  So, let’s take time out to think about your professional self:  where do you find support and how are your needs met?

You know the airplane rule—secure your oxygen mask before helping those around you.  If you can’t breathe, you won’t be able to continue supporting others.  One way to find that professional oxygen is by connecting with other directors.  Scheduling time to nurture relationships with your peers allows you to share the load, hear new ideas and solutions, and renew your inspiration and courage.  As you share laughter, you open your brain to learning, reduce stress, and see your problems in perspective.

Since 2000, the Arkansas Children’s Program Administrator Certificate and Credential (ACPAC) has brought together directors from diverse programs for specialized professional development.  In addition to the 129 clock hours of seminar time and the individual projects, participants are eligible to join the ACPAC Google group that makes connections as close as their keyboards.

Jill Gunderman participated in ACPAC while an assistant director.  She discusses community, leadership, and connections below.

The community built during the ACPAC experience is different from joining a professional organization (which is also important!).  Through intentionally crafted learning experiences, participants connect with each other around the content in each two-day seminar.  I got to share my ideas and thoughts and hear others’ ideas and thoughts, all surrounding the passion that we share.  I developed relationships with colleagues through this experience that I still enjoy today.  Even though ideologically I may disagree with fellow participants, there was true respect for the community that was built.  The community building occurred within the context of learning and examining best practices in leadership for young children.

 “The ACPAC experience allowed me to consider who I was as a leader.  I explored my communication style, my philosophy, and my abilities, enabling me to define my individual leader style. 

 “A big takeaway from the ACPAC experience for me, was the realization that I am not alone in this work.  Leadership can be a little lonely, even in large organizations.  But through the support of my fellow participants, some who had been doing this longer than I and others who had different life experiences that brought them to this place in their careers, I learned that although we may face different challenges, we face many more similarities.  Having the opportunity to learn from them and having the opportunity to articulate my thoughts helped shape me into the leader I am today.”

To sustain a vital professional life, you need the professional oxygen that comes from the relationships you find in a network of directors.  We encourage you to decide to join or create director networking opportunities in your area.   

Let Us Hear From You:  Post a comment and share with your colleagues.

  • How could SECA enhance your networking and sharing opportunities on a broader, regional scale? We sponsor a Directors Seminar at the annual conference each year that is designed to promote networking and sharing but we reach only a small number of SECA members who are in attendance at the conference.  What ideas and suggestions do you have about how we might increase support for you through other strategies….technology, sharing forums, dedicated website resources?
  • Have you developed local opportunities for networking and support?  Tell us about them and share your ideas with your colleagues throughout the South.
  • What do you see as the biggest challenges facing administrators of early childhood programs today?


 Diana Courson, Associate Director for Arkansas State University Childhood Services, worked with Geania Dickey to design the ACPAC curriculum in 2000 and continues to serve as a seminar facilitator.



 Jill Gunderman, Program Coordinator for Arkansas State University Childhood Services, ACPAC participant. 




For another model of Directors’ networking, check out the August 2016 blog post, Director to Director:  Supporting Each Other, by Laura Newman.

Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing – One State’s Campaign


As early childhood educators, we understand the value of talking, reading and singing to young children to develop their vocabularies, a precursor to future success in school.  SECA strives to share information from states that may serve as models for your state in developing programs for young children.  Our thanks go to the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for submitting the following article about their new statewide campaign.

 About the Campaign
 The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (AR-GLR), AETN and local partners recently launched a new campaign to boost the early brain development and language skills of children in Little Rock from birth through age five.

The campaign, titled “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing,” is working with two Little Rock School District pre-K programs, the Arkansas Home Visiting Network and Arkansas Department of Health, WIC to share resources and tools to help parents and caregivers boost young children’s vocabulary, improve school readiness and put more Arkansas kids on the path to reading on grade-level by the end of third grade.

Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing aims to motivate parents and caregivers to talknov-resource-kit,  read and sing more frequently with their young children from birth. More than half of Arkansas children start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language, math and social-emotional skills. Research shows that simple, everyday interactions with young children – like describing objects seen during a walk or bus ride, singing songs or telling stories – can build their vocabularies, prepare them for school and lay a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

“We’re empowering parents with the tools they need for their kids to succeed,” Kara Dukakis, the director of Too Small to Fail, said at a launch event at Little Rock’s Bale Elementary School Tuesday, November 16, 2016.   “Our goal is to integrate the campaign into the local early childhood infrastructure,” Dukakis said.

The Talking is Teaching campaign is partnering with trusted messengers, like pre-school teachers, child care providers, home visitors, and WIC nutritionists to share information with parents and caregivers about the critical role they play in their child’s early brain development. These community partners will distribute Talking is Teaching materials—including books, clothing, magnets and bags with prompts that encourage parents to talk, read and sing with their children—directly to families. The partners will also provide subscriptions for parents to ReadyRosie, an educational tool that has hundreds of brief videos in English and Spanish that model everyday interactions in familiar environments with real parents.

nov-youtube-chnTalking is Teaching also aims to transform everyday places where families spend time together into language-rich environments. Laundromats, grocery store chains and churches around the community will display Talking is Teaching posters that encourage families to talk, read and sing while they engage in everyday activities. A community-wide multimedia campaign, including billboards, bus signs and an AETN public service announcement, will reinforce these messages.
“Our goal is that every child in Arkansas can read on grade level by the end of third grade,” Angela Duran, AR-GLR campaign director, said. “This is the foundation for success in middle and high school and further in college and in careers.”   Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing is funded by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

For more information on the campaign contact Angela Duran, Campaign Director, Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading,  ?  870-692-3176

Many of the resources mentioned in the article are available for download at or  The parent bags of materials will only be available in Arkansas.

Let Us Hear From You/Post a Comment

  • Has your state or organization developed a similar campaign? If so, tell us how it works.
  • What strategies have you implemented in your program to promote vocabulary development?
  • Can you identify other open source resources that caregivers and parents could access?

Absenteeism in Pre-K and Kindergarten: Long Term Effects?

blog-header-10-16Photo courtesy of Nancy Alexander, LA.

Chronic absenteeism has been seen as something that primarily affects schools.  During the last couple of years, however, researchers have begun looking at the effects that a history of chronic absenteeism beginning in pre-K may have on the future academic success of a young child, particularly in regard to reading proficiency. 

Two reports, Absenteeism in DC Public Schools Early Childhood Program:  An Update for School Year 2013-2014 by Lisa Dubay and Nikhil Holla and  Insights into Absenteeism in DCPS Early  Childhood Program:  Contributing Factors and Promising Strategies by Michael Katz, Gina Adams and Martha Johnson, highlighted the importance of combating chronic absenteeism in the early years and the complex nature of the challenges in addressing the underlying causes.

The reports provided these key findings:

  • About 20% of Head Start students in the DC school programs were chronically absent, with another 7 % severely chronically absent, meaning they missed 20% or more of school days.
  • Children who came from families with significant needs were the most chronically absent.  The report found that 46% of children from homeless families, 36% of children from families participating in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and 34% of children with developmental delays missed 10% or more of the school days.
  • A variety of factors contributed to this chronic absenteeism, including things such as lack of transportation, a school culture that was not welcoming or accepting, neighborhood safety, health status or parental attitudes toward school.

A report just released by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading found that more than 12 percent of Arkansas students in kindergarten through third grade missed 18 or more days of school.  The report, Make Every Day Count:  Reducing Chronic Absence in Arkansas Schools, found that children in kindergarten were more likely to be chronically absent than third graders and that third graders who are economically disadvantaged or have special needs were more likely to be chronically absent.

As early childhood educators, we’ve dedicated our lives to supporting and assisting these children who face challenges, either through family circumstances or developmental problems.  Obviously, if a child is absent, the effect of our efforts will be diminished considerably.  It’s very clear that this is a problem that can develop before a child enters a public or private school…Pre-K programs are not immune.   Children miss those critical days when the building blocks for future learning are being put in place.

Let Us Hear From You

  • Have you experienced a problem with chronic absenteeism within your program or with specific children with whom you work?
  • If absenteeism is a problem, have there been adverse effects on your program or staff? How are  the day to day operations of your class or program affected?
  • Are there strategies that you have employed to educate and empower parents to ensure they are knowledgeable of the benefits of ensuring good attendance?
  • Have you founds ways to connect families in need with services and supports that may help to reduce the potential for chronic absenteeism?