President's Report 2007

Childcare Centre celebrates over 30 years of excellence

Ross Wiseman, the minister of the Department of Health and Community Services, and Dr. Carole Peterson, a professor in Memorial's Department of Psychology and one of the founders of the centre and chair for the last 27 years, chat with some of the children during the recent celebration.

Some may remember the Childcare Centre at Memorial University's St. John's campus when it first opened in 1976. At that time it was located in Corte Real, which is a part of the Burton's Pond Residence Complex.

The centre was the creation of Memorial student leaders with help from the university administration. It opened as a pre-school and had about 20 children. Today, the centre has its own building on Burton's Pond and over 150 children.

To mark this growth and milestones, the Childcare Centre held a festive reception on Jan. 29 to mark the anniversary of the opening of the new building and to celebrate over 30 years of excellence in childcare services the centre has delivered to the St. John's campus. The reception was attended by centre staff, parents and their children, and by university, student and government officials.

Dr. Carole Peterson, a professor in Memorial's Department of Psychology and one of the founders of the centre and chair for the last 27 years, recalled the early days.

"We had to struggle a bit in the early days to get our second centre licensed . . . the government of the day did not want to create a situation of multiple licenses per site," Dr. Peterson said. "Most places had kindergarten children mixed in with the preschool children. We finally prevailed and we were the first centre in the province to have a licensed after school program."

That kind of ground-breaking activity continues today and the centre is known for its innovative and often leading edge practices.

"We find that many of our ideas and some of the initiatives we take on voluntarily often become the standards and even become enshrined in regulation," said Mary Linehan, the acting co-ordinator of the centre. "Our staff is very engaged with government officials and with the early childhood development and education community, and we pride ourselves on being one of the best childcare centres, not just in this province, but in Canada."

Ross Wiseman, the minister of the Department of Health and Community Services was on hand to help in the celebration.

“Your organization has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to the provision of quality child care,” Minister Wiseman told the large group of parents, guests and children. “Your centre's staff work closely with Regional Child Care Services to continue the development and enhancement of the program offered to children. This is an indication of a centre that is committed to quality. I hope your Centre will continue to be a strong presence in our province. You can feel very proud of the work you have done in supporting and promoting quality child care in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

The centre was originally created by the Memorial University Students' Union, but it has recently reverted to the university and is now managed as a Separately Incorporated Entity, much like The Works in St. John's and the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook. The Childcare Centre operates with a volunteer board and is chaired by Lisa Hollett, Memorial's director of the Department of Human Resources who emceed the reception.

Kent Decker, Memorial's vice-president (finance and administration) represented the university at the event.

"The centre has become an important dimension of our campus and we have committed to ensuring that the success it has enjoyed will continue," said Mr. Decker. "It’s fitting that the university is the site of a childcare centre that not only supports student parents who are pursuing a post-secondary education, but also serves other members of the campus community - the faculty and staff - with childcare needs, but also with a research and learning dimension that ultimately helps other early childcare educators in the pursuit of best practices."

Bruce Belbin is the director of Student Success at Memorial. He was a student leader when the plans were being put in place for a new child care centre building near Burton's Pond.

He said that "I believed in 1989, as I believe now, that when an institution takes the time and effort to invest in a service far outside its core academic mandate, then that reflects well on the institution and makes it a leader of immeasurable positive consequence."

Don Duffie is a parent, a student and a volunteer member of the centre's Board of Directors. Mr. Duffie - who is doing his MBA as a part-time student -- notes that the centre is a close knit community and the board is very hands on and works extremely well with the staff.

"We work well with the staff to make decisions on policy and on some day to day issues," Mr. Duffie said. "My involvement with the centre over the last three years has shown me that the ECEs truly care about the children and are sincerely interested in maintaining the high level childcare that has come to be expected from the centre. It's not only a beautiful location, but a great place for our kids."

Fast Facts

• The Childcare Centre is a not-for-profit childcare centre.
• The Centre opened in 1976 as a preschool centre
• The new building was officially opened in January 1992
• The centre offers four individual licensed centres:
     1. Toddler Centre
     2. Full Time Preschool
     3. Part Time Preschool
     4. School-Age Centre

• Each centre is self-contained, with a playground and an area for motor activity. Each centre is equipped with observation rooms.
• The Childcare Centre has a total capacity of 164 children and employs 35 full-time and part-time staff, all trained in early childhood education.
• The centre is also a research/training facility for the university and the community at large. Students from psychology, human kinetics, education, nursing, and early childhood regularly visit the centre to observe the programs.
• The centre takes pride in delivering high-quality early learning programs in the face of changing regulations. Centre staff work closely with regulatory officials to meet and exceed provincial regulations.
• Many of the centre's standards are above and beyond what is required.
• Centre staff are highly trained professionals who regularly participate in professional development initiatives and the centre is guided by the belief that it is essential to be knowledgeable of what is happening in the community as it relates to early learning and care. For that reason, many of our staff liaise with various committees to address the future of early learning and care in our province.
• The centre's philosophy is Children Learn through Play and there is an emphasis on child-centred curricula which are planned around children's interests, while also meeting the developmental needs of the children.
• Enrollment priority is given to children of MUN students, then to faculty and staff. Any remaining openings are given to the general public.
• The hours are: 8:30 am to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. in the summer. The centre's numbers are: (709) 737-4728 or fax (709) 737-2693.

(Originally posted on today.mun.ca on Jan 31, 2007)