While students across the city celebrate the final months of school, the Department of Education is coming to grips with the fact that the deadline to hire 1,000 new Pre-K teachers by fall 2014 is fast approaching.
Since implementing his Universal Pre-K plan, Mayor de Blasio has faced criticism over the scope of the project, and concerns that there’s too much to be done to be ready by September. The administration has defended itself by insisting that the only potential speed bumps preventing the success of the program are financial. Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s promise to fully fund the program through existing state revenues, the microscope now falls on the city’s execution.
The Department of Education has formed a $6.7 million partnership with City University of New York to develop a fast-paced training and certification program to hire the 1,000 pre-K teachers needed for the fall. CUNY has partnered with the NY Early Childhood Professional Development Institute in developing two options for recruiting and training 400 new teachers by fall 2014.
“We realize that this isn’t an easy undertaking, but the Department of Education knew it had to be proactive in accomplishing the goals set out by Mayor de Blasio,” explained Executive Director Sherry Clearly. “Our focus is to elevate early childhood education, and identify and train the best teachers that apply.”
The first group of people they are targeting for recruitment are those with a bachelor’s degree, who want to make a career change into teaching. The DOE has been running advertisements around the city to inform people of the Fast Track Study Plan. Participants will receive full academic and financial support to assist them during the 14-month Master’s program.
One of the most important requirements for all applicants is that they have a B-2 certification (birth to 2nd grade early education). The second group of people that the DOE is recruiting are teachers who hold Master’s Degrees but aren’t B-2 certified. Both options are going to be offered at five CUNY campuses: City College, Brooklyn College, Lehman College, Queens College, and Hunter College.
“It’s important to talk about the fact that this is an exceedingly ambitious project,” Clearly said. “I appreciate the Mayor’s desire to bring quality education to as many New York City kids as possible, as soon as possible.”
According to the Mayor’s office, the pre-kindergarten expansion is planned to raise the number of New York City children attending pre-K from 20,000 to 68,000. The momentum has already begun, as tens of thousands of parents have begun applying to find a spot for their children next fall.
Raedell Wallace is one of the leading staff members on the Pre-K Teacher Pipeline Project, and has being working feverishly to process all the applications while continuing to recruit. She explained the importance of early childhood development, and how vulnerable a child’s mind is from birth to eight years old.
“This timeline is very demanding, but I think the Mayor’s efforts have brought attention to early childhood development,” Wallace said. “The attention these educators are now receiving has made the city more aware of the important work that they do. I think that has been the most positive things to come out of this plan.”
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