By Adam Grobman
The Brenner Family Early Learning Center at the Harrisburg JCC has been re-certified as a STAR 4 learning center through Keystone STARS, a program of Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning.
The STARS (Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources, and Supports) Program informs parents on the quality of early learning programs in Pennsylvania. A STAR 4 certification, which the ELC first received in 2018, recognizes the highest quality rating.
“I am so excited,” says ELC Director Jodi Meloy. “It speaks to the fact that we have a dedicated team of staff and that our programming and lesson planning is well-thought out and based in the children’s interest, ensuring that they’re actively engaged throughout the day.”
The PA Department of Human Services’ website states that STAR 4 programs “(give) your child the best opportunity to succeed today and in the future.” STARS measures the caliber of early learning centers across four categories:
- Staff Qualifications and Professional Development
- Early Childhood Education Programming
- Partnerships with Families and Communities
- Leadership and Management
“The program is designed to improve the quality of early childhood education,” Jodi says. “It ensures that we’re self-monitoring and maintaining our quality, even during this pandemic.”
The certification is valid for three years following a site visit (this year’s “visit” was conducted virtually), with annual reviews conducted each year.
The Keystone STARS certificate celebrates the JCC’s Early Learning Department as “a program committed to continuous quality improvement for the children they serve and demonstrates this by participating in Keystone STARS.”
The Brenner Family ELC serves young learners from six weeks through Pre-K. The center offers a unique curriculum which incorporates Jewish learning, especially in the learning garden at the JCC.
“One of the most unique factors about our ELC is our art and garden program led by Jodie Raffensperger,” says Lori Rubin, Associate Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg. “The garden is infused into the everyday lives of the children – it’s just one example of the quality and thoughtfulness of our program.”
Lori says that the professional development guidelines give extra incentive for ELC teachers to learn and develop as educators, which in turn has a profound impact on the children they nurture each day. The safety and health standards ensure a secure learning environment, while programming criteria keeps the ELC toward the top of area education centers.
“I’m really proud of the work that all of our teachers and staff did to ensure we retained our STAR 4 rating,” Lori continues. “They worked really hard to make it happen.”